The Intestine and its Inhabitants

The intestines are an important part of the digestive system – they transport the food bolus, absorb nutrients and water, produce vitamins and short-chain fatty acids, and remove indigestible food components. With a length of about 25ft and a surface area of up to 3,000 square feet. With our food, we not only absorb vital nutrients that enter the bloodstream via the intestine, but also encounter many foreign substances and pathogens. A healthy intestine that is equipped with a good intestinal flora and whose intestinal wall barrier is intact can catch, destroy and excrete toxins and pathogens before they can pose a risk to the body. Unfortunately, our gut microbes of the intestine can be massively disturbed by today’s modern nutrition and lifestyle. Often the intestinal mucosa is damaged, e. g. by a diet low in fiber and too much sugar or by abundant additives that are added in large quantities to many processed foods. It is estimated that about 17.6 lbs of preservatives pass through the intestine over the course of an adult life. This is unfavorable, since the preservatives do their job in the intestine just as they do as an additive in food: They destroy bacteria and do not distinguish between disease-causing or health-promoting intestinal bacteria.

The intestinal mucosa as a border post
Nutrients and water are supposed to reach the body from the intestine. However, this does not apply to undigested food components, toxins and pollutants. Therefore, the intestinal mucosa must form an effective barrier. Normally, the cells in the intestine are located close together and the intercellular spaces are sealed with a kind of “Velcro” tape, i. e. membrane protein complexes, the so-called „tight junctions“. In addition, the intestinal mucosa is supported by a variety of different intestinal bacteria, which settle on the intestinal mucosa like a “thick fluffy carpet”, creating an impermeable barrier to blood circulation. The tight junctions can be opened to allow larger molecules and larger quantities of water to pass through. Disruptive factors such as stress, medications, alcohol, pathogenic germs and various additives can alter the intestinal flora and damage the intestinal mucosa. The pathogenic bacteria primarily benefit from a changed intestinal flora, because they can adapt very quickly to the changed environment and multiply accordingly quickly. As a result, inflammation of the intestinal mucosa may occur and the intestinal epithelium gradually becomes permeable (leaky gut syndrome) to allergens, pollutants and pathogens that harm the body. Allergies, diabetes mellitus type 2, skin diseases and fungal infections are also associated with a damaged and altered intestinal flora.

Food for the intestinal cells
Lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria) and bifidobacteria, which settle sufficiently in the intestine, can protect and strengthen the intestinal mucosa. Studies have impressively demonstrated that lactobacilli can repair defects caused by harmful bacteria. The broadest possible bacterial colonization in the intestine is therefore more than desirable. This ensures that the intestine is well supplied and the intestinal cells are optimally nourished. The intestinal cells receive all vital nutrients directly from the intestinal content. The intestinal content can be partially metabolized by some intestinal bacteria from the group of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, forming short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids provide energy, stimulate intestinal peristalsis and the circulation of the intestinal wall. Particular attention is paid to butyric acid, which promotes the metabolism of the intestinal mucosa and the growth of blood vessels in the intestinal wall. It also has anti-inflammatory and anticancerogenic effects. Propionic acid and acetic acid play an important role in gluco- and lipogenesis. Furthermore, propionic acid supports the glucose balance in addition to building up the intestinal flora. It throttles the release of glucose and stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin. At the same time, the sensitivity of the body cells to insulin is increased. It is therefore beneficial if sufficient lactobacilli and bifidobacteria colonize the intestine. With a nutrition rich in fiber, especially vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruits, the bacterial population can be increased. But just as important are foods that provide probiotic bacterial strains, which are mainly found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yoghurt, kefir, buttermilk and many more.

Intestinal bacteria against obesity
Obesity is still mostly induced by high calorie food intake and lack of exercise. However, numerous studies have shown now that there is also a significant difference between normal and obese people with regard to the composition of the intestinal microbiome. Thus, the two bacterial phyla Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes occur in different populations – in normal-weight individuals, in the majority, Bacteroidetes were detected, while Firmicutes predominated in overweight individuals. The higher the percentage of Bacteroidetes, the lower the body weight was. Currently, scientists are increasingly interested in the significance of the bacterial species Prevotella and Bacteroides in connection with the clinical picture of obesity and the corresponding nutritional recommendations. In studies, subjects were divided into different enterotypes depending on which bacterial species dominated – Prevotella or Bacteroides. They were able to show that this classification had a decisive influence on dietary success. If Prevotella dominated, the subjects responded successfully to a nutrition characterized by abundant dietary fiber, especially fiber from whole grain products. If the bacterial strain Bacteroides had the upper hand, then this nutrition was less successful. Instead, a nutrition that promoted bifidobacteria, i.e. foods rich in inulin (parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, salsify, and many others), was better able to positively influence metabolism and support weight loss.

Conclusion
Our intestine and its functionality has an immense influence on our health and well-being. For this reason, it is important to do everything possible to maintain intestinal health and take good care of the intestinal inhabitants. This is best achieved with a nutrition that is above all varied and rich in fiber and vital substances (vegetables, herbs, whole grains, legumes) and largely avoids processed foods and products. With a colorful mixture of these foods, as they are also compiled in the Metabolic Balance nutrition plan, the health-promoting intestinal bacteria receive plenty of nourishment and the opportunity to settle diligently in the intestine. In addition, high-quality fats (cold-pressed vegetable oils) and proteins (sea fish, nuts, dairy products, eggs) should not be missing. While fats support the energy production of intestinal cells, proteins (amino acids) are important components for building and repairing damaged intestinal cells. The Metabolic Balance nutrition plan takes all these criteria into account. Nevertheless, it may well be that participants with long-standing intestinal problems need support at the beginning of the nutritional change due to a very weakened intestinal flora. In this case, pre- and probiotics can be very useful and good. But – “Keep your eyes open when shopping” – many of these pre- and probiotics contain, in addition to a variety of bacterial strains, plenty of additives, which in turn cancel out the positive effect of the bacterial strains and have an unfavorable effect on the intestinal flora. For example, Metabolic Basics Probiotics B.26 is recommended. With 26 bacterial strains (100 billion germs) and 24 herbal, spice and fruit extracts, it offers a high concentration and bacterial diversity. At the same time, the herbal and spice extracts have an anti-inflammatory effect on the intestine and facilitate the settlement of important intestinal bacteria in the intestine.


Source:
Yu Q et al. Lactobacillus protects the integrity of intestinal epithelial barrier damaged by pathogenic bacteria. Front Cell Infect Mircobiol. 5:26.Doi: 103389/fcimb.2015.00026.Schumacher B. “Störungen im Darm machen krank“. Ärzte Zeitung 2014 Oct 10; 03:05.Wehkamp J, Götz M, Herrlinger K, Steurer W, Stange E „Chronisch entzündliche Darmerkrankungen“; Deutsches Ärzteblatt 2016 Feb 5; 113/5Fischer S. „Genom, Proteom und Mikrobiom – Ein mikrobiologischer Blick in den menschlichen Organismus. Die Naturheilkunde 5/2015Francesco Asnica et. Al: Microbiome connections with host metabolism and habitual diet from 1098 deeply phenotyped individuals; Nature Medicine (2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-020-01183-8)Christensen L., Roager H. m., astrup a., Hjorth m. f. (2018): microbial enterotypes in personalized nutri-tion and obesity management. am J Clin nutr 108 (4): 645–651Hjorth m. f., Roager H. m., Larsen T. m., Poulsen S. K.,Licht T. R. Bahl m. I., Zohar Y., astrup a. (2018): Pre-treatment microbial Prevotella-to-Bacteroides ratio, determines body fat loss success during a 6-month randomized controlled diet intervention. Int J Obes 42 (3): 580–583

What are fibers and what role do they play in nutrition?

Fibers have long been considered unimportant for the body.

That this is not true, has only become clear later. For fibers are an indispensable element for a balanced and healthy nutrition.

What types of fibers are there?

Fibers are among the carbohydrates and can be divided into insoluble and soluble fibers due to their different properties.

Insoluble fibers (the majority of fibers)

  • Cellulose: Wheat bran, whole grain products, vegetables
  • Hemicellulose: Cereal grains, oats, rye, barley, legumes, fruits, vegetables
  • Lignin: Corn, lignified vegetables
  • Chitin: Mushrooms, articulate animals

Soluble fibers (types of sugar, starch – can be digested by enzymes in the large intestine)

  • Pectin: Apples, quinces, pears, fruit, vegetables, legumes
  • Marine-algae extracts – agar agar, carrageen: algae
  • Seed mucilage: Locust bean gum, guar gum, linseeds, psyllium, chia seeds
  • Natural gum, acacia gum: Vegetables, bark from different acacia
  • Fructosans: Onions, leek, asparagus
  • B-glucans: Oats, rye, barley, mushrooms
  • Resistant starch: Glucose; starch granules difficult to attack

How do fibers work?

Fibers have a variety of different properties depending on the category.

They stimulate chewing

Due to fiber structure, especially of cellulose and lignin, the food has to be chewed more intensively, which also stimulates the saliva flow. This supports tooth cleaning and neutralizes microbially formed acids, which has positive effects on dental health. The increased chewing effort also slows down food intake and triggers satiety stimuli, which usually means that less food is eaten overall.

Water binding, swelling properties, long-lasting saturation:

The water-binding and swelling properties increase the viscosity, i. e. the fluidity and volume of the stomach content. This delays the emptying of the stomach, which leads to longer satiety.

Swelling types of fiber delay the passage time of chyme through the small intestine, while fiber-like and water-insoluble fibers as well as the mucous substances speed up the passage time. This is why fibers are so appropriate to regulate intestinal disorders, such as constipation, and to improve bowel movements overall.

Positive effect on blood sugar and insulin levels:

Some gel-forming dietary fibers hinder enzymes during digestion, so that glucose can be absorbed more poorly, flows more slowly into the blood and thus blood sugar and insulin levels rise less.

Binding cholesterol and environmental toxins

Some dietary fibers, such as pectin, have the ability to bind to environmental toxins or even excess cholesterol and eliminate them from the body. This can reduce fat absorption, lower blood cholesterol, and decrease the deposit of toxic heavy metals and other pollutants.

Promote microflora and lower pH value

Due to the structural properties of dietary fiber, the multiplication of preferable colon bacteria is promoted and undesirable germs are lowered, among other things, by lowering the pH value. Thus, the microflora of the intestine is strengthened and can better protect against nutrition-related diseases.

Use in the food industry

Some of the listed dietary fibers look familiar to us from convenience foods and various processed foods, as their use is widespread in the food industry.

The food industry particularly appreciates the water-binding and gel-forming properties of a wide variety of dietary fibers (locust bean gum, guar gum or carrageen, xanthan and alginates) and likes to use them as stabilizers and thickeners.

Just as popular, however, are the water-soluble dietary fibers oligofructose and inulin, which have a slight sweetness and give some low-fat products a creamy consistency. However, some of these dietary fibers, which are extracted or produced by chemical processes, are suspected of promoting diseases. Such as carrageen, which is suspected of being carcinogenic and therefore banned in infant food.

How much fiber should be eaten daily?

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends an amount of 30g of dietary fiber per day. Metabolic Balance also recommends this amount and takes it into account when creating personalized nutrition plans.

To meet one’s daily requirement of 30g of fiber, nutrition must include plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and legumes. For example, 3 slices of whole meal bread, 250g of vegetables, 300g of fruit and 200g of potatoes can cover the daily requirement.

Exclusively isolated fiber in the form of psyllium, chia seeds or wheat bran cannot replace fiber-rich foods. However, these can be added as a useful supplement to nutrition, e.g. in cereals (psyllium husks). Be aware: After ingesting isolated fiber such as psyllium husks, chia seeds or wheat bran, in any case drink 1-2 large glasses of water. Only then the dietary fiber can swell properly and develop its positive effect. If this is not taken into account, among other things, constipation can occur, as the dietary fiber pulls the required water from the intestinal content.

What happens if too little fiber is eaten?

If too little dietary fiber is ingested, this can lead to various negative effects:

  • Constipation
  • Changes in the intestinal wall and intestinal mucosa
  • Obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes type 2
  • Tumors in the colon and rectum

Conclusion

As mentioned at the beginning, the assumption that fiber is unimportant and does not benefit our health can be clearly refuted. A sufficient daily intake of fiber is essential for a balanced and healthy nutrition. This cannot only treat nutrition-related diseases, such as constipation, but also, above all, do something for your health in a preventive way.

Those who eat according to their individual Metabolic Balance nutrition plan can be sure that they consume the recommended amount of 30g of dietary fiber per day. With the balanced ratio of proteins to carbohydrates in the form of fruit and vegetables, as well as the many starchy foods such as whole meal rye bread, oatmeal, potatoes or wild rice, as they prevail in the personalized Metabolic Balance nutrition plans, nothing stands in the way of a fiber-rich, balanced, healthy and preventive nutrition.

Diversity Matters

One of the most important parts of your health is not something you can see or even directly feel. It is the billions of microbes in your gut that through their diversity and metabolism modulate your immune system, mood, and overall well-being. Two of the most important factors that impact your microbiota are your diet and lifestyle. In regards to diet, eating a wide variety of foods, eating foods rich in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and incorporating probiotic foods are ways to ensure you maintain a diverse and happy community of microbes in your gut. For more information check out this infographic from the European Society for Neurogastroenterology and Motility.

Organic Apples

Organic apples are great for so many reasons!

Did you know that an apple contains more than one million bacteria? This is what scientists at Graz University of Technology found out in a 2019 study. Eating apples is therefore not only beneficial because they contain an abundance of enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fiber but also because they contain microbes. The bacteria found in the seeds and flesh, can have beneficial effects on the microbiota in your intestine. In this study, it was also examined whether there is a difference between apples from conventional cultivation vs organic apples. The result was clear: the organic apples showed significantly more diverse bacterial communities. So enjoy your organic apples and stay healthy!

Study: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190724090255.htm

Fennel

As we are leaving the summer months behind, delicious produce including fennel are coming into season. Originally from the Mediterranean area, where it is mainly grown as vegetable, it is now commonly found all across the US. Not only is it grown commercially but it is also found in meadows in the wild. You can recognize it by its finely feathered leaves, the typical fennel scent and bright yellow blossoms. As a healing herb, fennel has a lot to offer. The herb and seeds can have many health benefits including relieve menstrual cramps, relieve upset stomachs, aid in digestion, and boost the immune system. From a culinary point of view, opinions diverge regarding the fennel – some people love it and some do not like the taste at all! Stay tuned as tomorrow we will share one of our favorite recipes with you. Even if you normally do not like fennel, give this recipe a try because you will not be disappointed!

Infographic: LiveLoveFruit

The Gut Microbiome

In the past decade the role of the gut microbiome in our health and well-being has been explored in thousands of studies. One link that has been discovered is that what you eat can impact your gut microbiome, which in turn can impact your overall health and metabolism. This highlights the importance of eating foods on a meal plan (like that from Metabolic Balance) customized specifically to your body to ensure that your gut gets the proper nutrients it needs to keep your body healthy.
Check out the infographic from the BBC below to learn more!
(Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/articles/what_should_you_eat_for_a_healthy_gut)

Microbes infographic

Wonderful Wild Garlic

Worth Knowing:
In the past several years, wild garlic has become increasingly popular again. Not only does this vegetable have a great flavor but it is also has a plethora of preventative properties.

Its long-stemmed young leaves are harvested between March and May and can be used in various culinary treats. As aromatic as garlic, wild garlic has a decisive advantage over its fragrance-intensive relative. Unlike “normal” bulb garlic, wild garlic isn’t quite as pungent and can therefore be consumed without worrying about who you are chatting with afterwards!

The delicate greens of wild garlic also have amazing health benefits. When eaten regularly this plant can:

  • have cleansing and detoxifying effects
  • help restore the balance of healthy gut bacteria and protect against Candida albicans infections
  • ease digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation
  • improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • support cardiovascular health and protect against arteriosclerosis
  • help with skin and hair problems

Try this delicious and nutritious vegetable in a salsa verde, pasta dish, or soup!

If you are interested in learning more explore the links below!

Fabulous Fennel

Worth Knowing:

Fennel originally comes from the Mediterranean where it is mainly grown as a vegetable, but has also become native to many of our local gardens. If you are walking through a natural meadow you might also find wild fennel. It can be recognized by its finely feathered leaves, its distinct anise like, and dainty yellow flowers. In folk medicine, fennel is described as a true miracle herb. Including fennel and fennel seeds in your diet are great for improving your mood, a healthy complexion, oral health and fresh breath, reducing mucus, detoxing, relieving cramps, supporting digestion and reducing an upset stomach.